Consumer Health Digest #01-34

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 20, 2001

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

CDC issues fluoride update. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a 42-page report on fluoride use. [Fluoride Recommendations Group. Recommendations for Using Fluoride to Prevent and Control Dental Caries in the United States. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 50(RR14):1-42, Aug 17, 2001] Because frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride each day will best reduce the risk for dental caries in all age groups, the agency now recommends that all persons drink water with an optimal fluoride concentration and brush their teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. (Approximately 100 million Americans do not have community fluoridation available.) For persons at high risk for dental caries, additional fluoride measures may be useful. The report also recommends labeling of bottled water and other beverages so that individual fluoride intake can be determined. In 1999, the CDC listed water fluoridation as among the ten greatest health milestones of the 20th century. Studies show that fluoride can prevent the formation, slow the progression, and even reverse newly-forming cavities.

Suspension recommended for "biological" dentist. An Administrative Law Judge has recommended that Douglas J. Phillips, D.D.S., of West Palm Beach, Florida, be fined $9,000 and suspended from practicing for 1 year, followed by 5 years of probation. In making his recommendations, the judge upheld charges that Phillips (a) had furnished substandard care to a patient (a chiropractor); (b) had failed to keep adequate dental records for that patient; and (c) had failed to maintain the required malpractice insurance coverage. The Florida Board of Dentistry can accept or modify the Judge's findings and recommendations. The case is significant because the substandard practice included Autonomic Response Testing (ART), a variation of applied kinesiology in which muscle tests are used to diagnose health problems throughout the patient's body. According to the judge's report, Phillips's dental assistant held the patient's hand with one hand while Phillips pulled down on the assistant's other arm. When the assistant's shoulder muscle tested weak after the patient was exposed to a stimulus, Phillips concluded that the area of the patient's body corresponding to the stimulus was not healthy. If the assistant's shoulder remained strong, Phillips concluded that the tested area was healthy. The various stimuli included touching the patient's individual teeth and placing heavy metals, bacteria from root canal teeth, and homeopathic remedies on the patient's lap. Phillips alleged that these tests enabled him to determine the condition of the patient's internal organs, evaluate her dental problems, and identify the homeopathic remedies that would best promote healing. Based on the results, he concluded that the patient's tonsils, heart, spleen, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, large intestines, and pubic area were compromised and that two of the patient's teeth with root canals were toxic. Hulda Clark's "publicist" Patrick "Tim" Bolen, who appeared to have been hired by Phillips or his attorney, labeled the proceedings against Phillips a "quackbuster conspiracy." The full text of the judge's report is available on Quackwatch. For additional information, search the State of Florida Web site for Case No. 99-4690.

De-licensed dentist charged with Medicaid fraud. Joel Berger, of Miami, Florida, 12 dentists, and several other individuals have been charged with participating in a $10 million scheme in which thousands of children in South Florida's poorest neighborhoods whom prosecutors say recruiters have delivered to the dentists for unnecessary and sometimes improper care in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud Medicaid. Many of the parents gave their consent because they thought it was a convenient way for their children to receive free dental care, but some children were taken without permission from their parents or their caretakers. To get the children to cooperate, the recruiters gave them $5, Pokémon cards and trips to McDonald's. The recruiters received $25 for every child they successfully recruited. Some youngsters were shuttled to different dentists for up to a month until their benefits ran out. Each time they received more X-rays, which were frequently administered by untrained dental employees. Mr. Berger, whose New York dental license was revoked in 1990 for gross negligence, incompetence, and unprofessional conduct, allegedly set up the dental offices in three Florida counties but did not practice himself. A Medicaid fraud division official estimates that since the investigation began in 1999, South Florida's annual Medicaid dental bill for children has been cut in half, to about $18 million. [Canedy D. Children are prey in a Medicaid dental scheme. New York Times, Aug 17, 2001]

Suit filed to compel androstenedione warnings. The California Attorney General has filed suit against more than 30 manufacturers and distributors of "androstenedione" supplements for failure to warn consumers that the product is a form of anabolic steroids and can cause significant fertility problems. The suit contends that androstenedione supplements should contain consumer warnings as anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids currently require Proposition 65 warnings because the substance in men alter the prostate, the testes, and the seminal vesicles, and in women reduce ovulation and increase the risk of premature delivery. Steroids also can stunt growth, cause heart disease, stroke and damaged liver function, as well as premature balding and development of breast tissue in men. [Attorney General Lockyer seeks consumer warnings on popular bodybuilding "andro" supplements as required by California's Proposition 65. Attorney General news release, Aug 16, 2001]

Maryland Attorney General seeking volunteer mediators. The Maryland Attorney General's mediation unit is seeking volunteers who can work ten hours a week handling telephone hotline inquiries and mediating consumer complaints against businesses and health-care providers. The volunteers will receive training and $9 per day. For additional information, call (410) 576-6355 or E-mail

Intercessory prayer debated. The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) has posted the transcript of a debate between William Harris, M.D., professor and director of the Metabolism and Vascular Laboratory at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, and Irwin Tessman, Ph.D., of Purdue University. Dr. Harris headed a study on intercessory prayer published in 1999 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Dr. Tessman debunked Harris's research and a related 1988 study in the March/April 2000 issue of CSICOP's Skeptical Inquirer. Among other things, Tessman noted that the Harris study claimed significant findings by excluding data that demonstrated no effect. [Is there evidence evidence that intercessory prayer speeds medical recovery? A Debate]

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This page was posted on August 20, 2001.